Survival relies on service

INDEPENDENT garden centres need to be more upmarket and offer quality advice and service if they are to survive, says Fraser Garden Centre owner Barry Waldeck.

Mr Waldeck said increasing competition from big hardware chains such as Bunnings had taken a lot of market share from the independent garden centres.

The major players in WA’s garden centre market are Bunnings, Waldecks and Plants Plus affiliates. Plants Plus is owned by nationwide hardware chain John Danks & Son.

“An independent garden centre now has to be a place of relaxation. You’re going to see a lot more cafés added. My next job is to get a café added here,” Mr Waldeck said.

“In England, 95 per cent of the garden centres have cafés. It has to be a pleasurable setting and outing to be successful.

“A lot of people will spend an hour or two here. The background music is so important. If you can get a favourable comment on the music, you know it’s working.

“But the dollar is still the almighty puller so you have to run specials.”

He said shrinking block sizes had changed people’s demand for plants.

“We’ve had to drop our big shrubs because of that. Potted colour – pots of petunias and other flowering annuals – is proving very popular.

“Roses and succulents are a fad that is back again.”

Mr Waldeck began in the garden industry because he had a love of plants. He was self-employed by the age of 21 and has been since.

He built up the Waldecks chain in WA, opening its first outlet in Osborne Park in 1969 – before being forced to sell out following the 1987 stock market crash.

Mr Waldeck also helped create Garden Centres of Australia that pulled together independent garden centres nationwide.

“We’re a non-commercial body looking at trends, education and staff training,” he said.

That organisation is affiliated with the International Garden Centres Association, which has members in 37 countries.

Mr Waldeck was able to use that link to attract the International Garden Centre Congress to Australia in 1998.

It was only the second time the event had been held in the southern hemisphere.

Mr Waldeck also helped create the Best Garden Centre competition.

He is a past president of the WA Nursery Industry Association and a member of its executive for about 20 years.

Mr Waldeck has been president of the Australian Nursery Industry Association and was given its peak honour in 1998 for his work with the International Garden Congress.

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